Major Department

International Relations and Affairs


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2020

Honors Major Advisor

John S. Nelson

Thesis Mentor

Nicholas F. Martini


Scholarly work on interstate war has focused on a plethora of variables that increase the risk of war between states, but there is less of an understanding on how all these variables contribute as a whole to the likelihood of interstate war. This continued gap of knowledge in conflict studies leaves the puzzle of war still very much alive. In this paper, I draw from the work of Dave Grossman and his psychological theory on killing as the structure for a more complete model of state conflict that merges with our understanding on concepts, such as alliances, rivalry, capability, contiguity, state leaders, and more. I then apply this theory to a qualitative case study of Japan-U.S. relations between 1853-1941 to explore Japan’s conflict decisions in three separate time periods. Results indicate that this unified theory on interstate war initiation holds promise for helping solve the puzzle of war. Quantitative testing, as well as application to other areas of conflict, such as civil war, are avenues for future research.


war, initiation, interstate, model

Total Pages



Copyright © 2020 Cody Moen